Our "In Conversation" series features long-form interviews with visionaries and change-makers

Over the last few decades, mindfulness has gone viral. These days, the practice has found its way into corporations, prisons, schools, police departments, and even the U.S. military. There are many benefits to mindfulness of course, but in his book, “McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality,” author Ron Purser explores the more pernicious part of the practice but examining how capitalism had co-opted mindfulness to further exploitation and extraction.

Interestingly, it turns out that mindfulness can be very compatible with our current neoliberal ideologies of individualism, inward-focus, and the watering-down of sociality. It has been expertly applied in a way which encourages us to only look inside for solutions to our problems, instead of challenging the systems and structures that drive the suffering we experience. McMindfulness is a way of pacifying a population and instilling a victim-blaming mentality: if you’re stressed, anxious, depressed, just “mindfulness up,” and get over it.

How did we get here? What can we do about it? How can mindfulness be reclaimed and in fact used as a radical force for system change and psychological well being? We explore these questions and more in this conversation. The full transcript of our conversation is available here.

It won’t come as a surprise to most to hear that the Trump administration has completely dropped the ball on their response to the covid pandemic. The misinformation campaign, lack of empathy, and outright failure of this administration to address the dangers and impacts of covid are jaw-dropping.


But it’s not just a matter of this particular administration. In his new book “The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,” Richard Wolff, a professor of economics and founder of Democracy at Work, outlines how the root cause of the failure to adequately respond to this pandemic is rooted in our economic system itself — capitalism.


We spoke with Richard Wolff about how the Trump administration and our current economic system are both responsible for the disastrous response that the United States has shown in the face of such a major disaster. We go over how other countries have responded, how the United States could have done things differently, why capitalism is doomed to fail us, and how restructuring our economic system towards one that is more collective and cooperative could address many of the issues that we are facing today. Read the full transcript here.

The idea of Silicon Valley means many things to many people. The most prominent associations with this region and culture probably have to do with the tech industry — but that’s not the whole story. Not even close. There’s a dark side to Silicon Valley that doesn’t always make it into mainstream conversations and popular assumptions. Beneath the image there is a stark reality.

In this Upstream Conversation, we spoke with Wendy Liu, an author and Silicon Valley insider turned critic. Her debut book, Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology From Capitalism, is a memoir and a manifesto on how to transform the tech industry from the hypercapitalist culture of inequality, gentrification, and greed that it is to something more equitable, accessible, and supportive of the real disruptions we need today. You can read the full transcript here.

What if you got your neighbors together and occupied the public spaces on your book, transforming them into whatever you would all want it to be? What would you include? ...A solar-paneled tea station? A little free library? A mural? This is the type of urban placemaking that the City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon inspires and facilitates.

In this Upstream Conversation, we spoke with Mark Lakeman an urban place-maker, permaculture designer, and community facilitator who co-founder of The City Repair Project. In the last decade, he has directed, facilitated, or inspired designs for more than three hundred new community-generated public places in Portland, Oregon alone.

We spoke with him while he was visiting Santa Cruz about the capitalist history of the Urban Grid and how to reclaim our streets, revive community, and belong once more to place.

More interviews from our "In Conversation" series 

In this conversation, we dove deep into the details and specifics of the United States’ political response to Covid with Eric Levitz, senior writer for New York Magazine's Intelligencer blog. Eric wrote a piece titled, “Coronavirus Creates an Opening for Progressivism — Also Barbarism,” where he explored what Covid means for the future of politics in the United States.

What political cracks in fishers has Covid opened up? What divisions has it given rise to? What new forms of connection? How has it demonstrated the vulnerabilities and weaknesses in our political system, both domestically and also in how we interface with the rest of the world? Is the United States moving towards a period of more right-wing or neoliberal barbarism? Or will the Covid crisis finally be a wake up call to move towards a more just, equitable, and solidaristic form of politics? These are just some of the questions we explore in this conversation.

In this Conversation, we spoke with Eric Holt-Gimenez, author of the book, “A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat.” Why does hunger exist? What are the causes of food insecurity? Why do those in working in the food system, from the farmers who till the soil to the server who places your meal on the table, receive largely unlivable wages? Eric’s answer to these questions is simple: capitalism. Together we trace a line from the enclosures of the early 17th century to the present, looking at how food was commodified and how the market capitalist economic system has done a great job of overproducing food, and a poor one of distributing it equitably.